CLEVELAND --- The sight of 20,000 people waving white rally towels before the opening tip Thursday night should have served as a fair warning for the Hawks . Not long after that, the Hawks should have waved a white flag of their own, because there was no way they were going to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.
Not with two starters in street clothes, another in early foul trouble, a third going down with yet another injury and LeBron James at his MVP best early and often in a 105-85 Game 2 rout in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
There were actually 31 minutes of legitimate suspense in the Cavaliers' 27-point Game 1 rout Tuesday night.
It didn't last that long Thursday night as the Cavaliers stormed to a 2-0 series lead.
James drained a step-back 40-footer over Mario West at the halftime buzzer, rousing a sellout crowd of 20,562 out of their seats and shaking the roof of Quicken Loans Arena as the Cavaliers pushed their lead to 24 points.
Things went from bad to worse for the Hawks when Joe Johnson turned his right ankle on a layup attempt with 3:32 to play in the third quarter.
He limped to the bench with a severe ankle sprain, and the Hawks trailing by 32, both of them done for the night long before the final buzzer.
"Don't know yet," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said when asked about Johnson's status after the game. "He tweaked his ankle a little bit, and we'll gauge it when we get back tomorrow."
While the reserves were on the court finishing the Hawks' fifth straight blowout loss in this postseason --- the Cavaliers' biggest lead was 36 points --- Johnson was in a wheelchair being pushed by one of the team's doctors.
They were leaving the Cavaliers' locker room, where Johnson's right ankle was being X-rayed.
Whatever the results, it's clear that this series has taken a dramatic turn in the wrong direction for the Hawks , who will have to paste together a lineup of reasonably healthy players going forward.
It was another dazzling showing from James and the Cavaliers, who have yet to be challenged for an entire game in six playoff appearances --- they swept Detroit in the first round.
This series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4, Saturday and Monday, respectively.
But if the Hawks can't muster any more energy or healthy bodies at Philips Arena, there's no reason to believe they'll make a return trip here next week for Game 5.
It would help if they could nurse Al Horford (ankle) and Marvin Williams (wrist) back to some semblance of health by this weekend.
Both starters were in street clothes Thursday, sacked by injuries that have plagued them throughout this postseason.
Josh Smith picked up three early fouls and was on the bench with them for the final eight minutes of the first half, when the Cavaliers methodically stretched their early lead from impressive to flat out domination.
James assaulted the Hawks in transition, in the half court, at the rim and from beyond the 3-point line.
He finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting. He also had five assists, four steals and three rebounds, igniting the crowd and his team with his every move.
NBA playoffs: Cavaliers 105, Hawks 85